Ha’way Back When: Sunderland’s first ever FA Cup Final success, 80 years on

Raich Carter holds the FA Cup aloft as he is chaired around Wembley by the delighted Sunderland side after the 1937 FA Cup Final win over Preston North End.
Raich Carter holds the FA Cup aloft as he is chaired around Wembley by the delighted Sunderland side after the 1937 FA Cup Final win over Preston North End.
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Sunderland first won the FA Cup 80 years ago.

Here we look back to that glorious May day in 1937, when the Rokermen beat Preston North End 3-1 at Wembley, sending the town wild, with Argus’s cup final report from the Echo on Monday, May 3.

Bobby Gurney, Raich Carter and Eddie Burbanks grabbed the vital goals after Preston led with a Frank O’Donnell strike.

At last! I only began to realise that we had actually won the cup when I saw Len Duns and Sandy McNab chairing Horatio Carter across Wembley’s playing pitch to the dressing rooms, followed by a rather dejected Preston North End.

Proud victors and gallant losers.

Dejected, perhaps; but lavish in their congratulations of the Sunderland men.

That was one of the most pleasing sights of all at the end of this free-kick Coronation final.

I give it the term “free-kick” final because there was far too much whistle.

The referee seemed determined to put a stop to anything questionable and penalised anything and everything, exceeding the letter of the law on occasions by giving fouls when intention was not behind the incident.

But, in my judgment, refere Rudd did as well as any man could have done – and when he gave Sunderland their equalising goal he was right, and Mr George Allison was wrong.

The Arsenal manager, in his broadcast and in his written report on the play, says very definitely that Gurney was offside when he flicked the ball with the back of his head after Burbanks had placed a corner.

Just as definitely, I say – and Preston agree – that Gurney was played on-side by two things: by Tremelling playing the ball to him with his head and by Beattie not having moved forward sufficiently early when the ball was first played after the corner kick.

The referee was still against the post and Mr George Allison was farther away from the incident than any Press man.

Sunderland’s second half won the cup.

They had a bad first 45, both at winghalf and inside-forward, but once the wing half-backs began holding the ball and bringing it through, the tide turned and Sunderland were indisputedly the better side.

They deserved to receive the coveted trophy from the hands of the smiling Queen Elizabeth – and later, in the Hotel Russell, drank deeply of fine vintage champagne from the silver ornament which causes so much heartburning; so many tears of sorrow, so many tears of joy.

Looking back, two or three things stand out in my mind – the fierce struggle between Bert Johnston and Frank O’Donnell, with the gradual but sure mastery by the Sunderland centrehalf; the cool work of Gorman, as good as any back upon the field; the skill of Charlie Thomson, both in forcing the ball away in a tackle and his placings; the absolute matter-of-fact poise and precision of Burbanks and Gurney in the last quarter of an hour or so got Tremelling in a tangle.

Then the closing scene, Sunderland radiantly happy and not even showing fatigue, marching up to the Royal box while Preston came up with dragging footsteps.

Training has made a team of Sunderland’s light build carry on the work of the past three seasons.

When you consider how Sunderland won the cup, don’t forget that the man who has had as much to do with it as anyone off the actual field is trainer Andy Reid.

I have mentioned Johnston, Gorman, Thomson, Burbanks and Gurney.

I do not mention them as the cup winners, for every man played his part.

I do not mind admitting now that I was afraid Johnny Mapson’s excitement might get the better of him.

He was safe from the start and though some thought he was at fault when beaten by Frank O’Donnell, I do not.

Give the other fellow credit for having the brains to make Mapson go the wrong way.

Hall was never brilliant but always sound; McNab was at his best in the second half; Duns keen and able to centre from almost any position – the youngest member of the side keeping his head; Carter always working to prevent attack and to initiate it, but not so sure as he usually is with his shooting; and Gallacher making two goals by the skill behind his passes.

The third goal was a peach of a pass from Gallacher and a beautiful goal from a young left-winger, Burbanks, who is one of the best wing men in England today.

So the cup is at last Sunderland’s and there was great merriment at the informal gatherings later in the evening.

Surely there have never been such after-the-final scenes! Lady Raine was the one to propose the health of the Sunderland players and the officials after we reached the Hotel Russell after the match, and she paid a special tribute to John Cochrane and Andy Reid.

The Sunderland manager was walking on thin air all the night, and he had every reason to.

Runners-up, league champions and cup winners in successive years is a feat.

And it will, I hope, be many years before any club can repeat Sunderland’s performance in winning the FA Cup in Coronation year.

One sad loss.

Bob Wood was the victim of the nimble-fingered merchants. In the crowded tube train, the gold watch and chain which the Wearside League had given him in recognition of 25 years’ faithful service was “lifted”.

That was a blow, but the fact that Sunderland had won the cup tempered it.

Sunderland: Mapson, Gorman, Hall, Thomson, Johnston, McNab, Duns, Carter, Gurney, Gallacher, Burbanks

Preston: Burns, Gallimore, Beattie, Shankly, Tremelling, Milne, Dougal, Beresford, F O’Donnell, Fagan, H O’Donnell.

Ref: R.G. Rudd. Att: 93,495.